Throughout this season many Celtics fans have criticized Danny Ainge for not acquiring a center to compete with competitive bigs in the Eastern Conference. The concern has been size and defensive ability. Fans worry that Joel Embiid and Bam Adebayo can easily take advantage of a smaller starters Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson. Which is a fair concern.
Enter Robert Williams III. Williams has been growing the last couple years on this Celtics roster and has shown both his youth and his potential. Now, as he is in his third year, he is getting serious consideration as the big of this teams future, as he should be.
His point per shot attempt is among the highest in the league, when he’s allowed to play. His field goal percentage is over 70% which is absolutely astounding. He has shown to be the Celtics best lob catcher with his explosive jumping ability and reach. His size and mobility makes him a serious pick and roll player, whether that be as the roller or the big in the dunkers spot acting as the third option. He could improve his screening and sealing but those things can come with time.
Defense is one of the biggest concerns, will he be a good enough rim protector? He has already shown he is a serious shot blocker. He has a wingspan of 7’6″ and his height is listed anywhere from 6’8″ to 6’10” and has a 40″ vertical. We know he can close out and block shots as far out as the three point line. His rotations are okay but that is another youth problem. His rebounding numbers could also be better but actually aren’t bad when one considers his limited minutes.
All of his shortcomings can, and have, gotten better the more quality minutes he gets. Which overall is an issue. Williams has been on a minutes restriction for some time now due to monitoring of a past hip injury. Hips are one of the major concerning areas in a basketball player’s career and the Celtics patience and diligence is showing their investment in him as the season and his career progresses. This being a condensed season, it is especially important to have players ready come playoff time. It’s a bit of a catch 22. The Celtics are at the point where they need to get the young big more reps and minutes but they also want him to avoid any unnecessary wear and tear.
Taking all of this into consideration can be difficult. The team wants to invest in him but they also don’t want him to over exert himself. Brad Stevens is aware of this paradox and will most likely gradually increase his play time as the season progresses. It’s important for fans to keep in mind that Ainge hasn’t made a move for a center because he believes the team already has one.
(Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP Photo)